You wait all year for the stars to align: The sun is out, it’s the weekend (or it’s your vacation), and you’re ready to hit the beach. But the recipe is easily spoiled if you don’t shield your skin from the damning, relentless sun; as warm and rejuvenating as those rays might be, they can also cause days or weeks of agony if you aren’t careful.
So, stick with the script: The below tips and products will ensure that your day isn’t soured by a sunburn, nor your memories of an otherwise blissful day. Here are the top skincare tips for a perfect day at the beach.
1. Wear water-resistant SPF 30+, all day
Consider this more than a suggestion: The American Academy of Dermatology and the FDA both stress the importance of wearing SPF whenever you are exposed to the sun (and even on cloudy days, for that matter, as well as year round). They say that SPF 30 is the baseline, for its ability to filter 97% of UV rays (compared to 93% for SPF 15).
Apply it at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every 2 hours spent outside. Make sure it is broad-spectrum, so that it thwarts both UVA and UVB rays (the former which causes changes to texture and skin resilience and which causes tanning, the latter or which causes burn and skin cancers).
A shot glass’ worth should be enough to cover most average-sized bodies. And, if you’ll be getting sweaty or wet, then be sure it is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes. (FDA regulations don’t allow brands to tout resistance beyond 80 minutes; it’s either 40, 80, or nothing at all.) Reapply whenever you get out of the water or after a long bout of sweating.
One SPF we like that checks all the boxes is MyChelle Dermaceuticals SPF30 Mineral Spray.
2. Separate SPF between face and body
The skin on your face is a lot more finicky than that on your body—from breakouts to sweating to simple irritation—so make certain that any SPF applied to your face is designated as such. If you have a bottle of sunscreen that doesn’t designate its placement, then it’s likely just for the body. That being said, you can always apply a face-friendly product to the rest of your body, but the same cannot be said in reverse.
One approach we like to take is to use a face moisturizer with SPF30+, rather than a face sunscreen itself (though those are terrific, too). In this way, you get all the nourishing, necessary benefits of a moisturizer, plus the defensive ones from SPF, rather than dividing all of the functions across two separate products. We love CeraVe’s SPF30 moisturizer because it’s oil-free, which wears featherlight on the skin and prevents aggressive sweating (and in turn, negates the need to constantly reapply before the next 2-hour interval).
3. Avoid the harshest hours of sunlight
It’s wise to stay out of the sun between 10AM and 3PM. This advice might be a buzzkill, but just use the intel to inform your beach day. No, we don’t expect anyone to say “oh, perfect, it’s 4PM, so we can finally go to the beach!” But rather, limit the direct sun exposure you get between these hours, since the sun can be most punishing. And, follow the SPF rules most vigorously in these same hours. You won’t regret it.
4. Wear a hat
Your hair can experience frizzing, fraying, and breakage due to excessive sun exposure—as well as discoloration. And, since it’s hard to apply sunscreen to your scalp between your hairs, it’s doubly wise to wear a hat. The last thing you want is a week’s worth of large, flaky peeling, looking like you have otherworldly dandruff…
5. Don’t forget an SPF lip balm
Have you ever had sunburnt lips? It sucks! Get a lip balm with SPF, and save yourself the pain. Oh, and on that topic, don’t miss applying sunscreen to your armpits, the bottoms of your feet, between your toes, and any other body parts that might seem less than obvious. Try Sun Bum’s.
6. Skip the retinol before and after
If you’ve got a thorough, proactive skincare regimen, then there’s a good chance it includes a retinol product in the evening. However, retinol can make your skin especially sensitive to sunlight, so it’s wise to back off the product in the day or days leading up to that beach day, and in the days following.
Don’t abandon it all summer—you need to use retinol regularly to enjoy all of its anti-aging, skin-clearing benefits, but you can also spare a few nights if it means not mixing it with a heavy hit of sunlight. (And always cleanse thoroughly each morning, to rinse retinol away, even if you’ll be in the sun for a few minutes on any other day).
7. Follow with a cool shower, and soothing hydrators
In terms of skin health, the sunny-day comedown is as important as the buildup. Treat yourself to a cool or lukewarm shower after a day at the beach (or poolside) to rinse away any salt, chlorine, or other residue on your skin. Then, lather on a lightweight, breathable (oil-free!) hydrator, ideally something with an calming, nourishing ingredient like aloe, allantoin, or chamomile. We commend Gold Bond’s aloe-packed body lotion and Mario Badescu’s aloe moisturizer.
Bonus: Make sure you smell your best at the beach with these 6 timeless summer fragrances.
Photos via Brands